In our first Silly Season update, Sportscar365 looks at the confirmed and likely Prototype entries for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including some entries for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Wayne Taylor Racing (Cadillac DPi) – After dominating the 2017 season, the Indianapolis-based team will return to defend its Prototype title with a revised driver lineup of Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. The Dutchman replaces Ricky Taylor, who has signed for Acura Team Penske. IndyCar ace Ryan Hunter-Reay is expected to complete the team’s lineup for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races. (1 car confirmed)
Action Express Racing (Cadillac DPi) – Action Express will also feature a revised lineup, with Felipe Nasr replacing the Penske-bound Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside Eric Curran, and Filipe Albuquerque stepping up to a full-season seat in the No. 5 car with Joao Barbosa. Christian Fittipaldi scales back to an endurance-only driver in the No. 5, with Mike Conway back in the No. 31 and Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Stuart Middleton completing the lineup for Daytona. (2 cars confirmed)
Spirit of Daytona (Cadillac DPi) – The Troy Flis-led squad is poised to return to GM machinery after a year campaigning Gibson-engined LMP2 cars. It’s understood plans are being put into place for the team, currently known as Visit Florida Racing, to run a Cadillac DPi, with a likely all-new driver lineup. Van der Zande has already departed for WTR, with Marc Goossens reportedly on the chopping block. It’s believed Visit Florida, meanwhile, is unlikely to return, at least in a title sponsor capacity, with the team exploring new sponsors. (1 car likely)
Tequila Patron ESM (Nissan DPi) – Scott Sharp’s ESM operation will see an unchanged full-season driver lineup in Sharp and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi, and Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 22 car. Nico Lapierre and Olivier Pla have been announced as the team’s endurance drivers, although specific car allocations have not yet been made. (2 cars confirmed)
Acura Team Penske (Acura DPi) – Making its full-season WeatherTech Championship debut, Penske’s pair of Acura ARX-05 DPis will feature a star-studded lineup of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, with Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal completing the lineup for the enduros. (2 cars confirmed)
Mazda Team Joest (Mazda DPi) – A pair of heavily revised Mazda RT24-Ps will be on the grid next year with the Japanese manufacturer’s new partnership with the legendary German outfit. While driver lineups are due to be announced at the LA Auto Show next month, look for Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito to return for a full season, likely joined by Joel Miller and Oliver Jarvis. Spencer Pigot and Audi DTM ace Rene Rast, meanwhile, have been tipped for endurance seats. (2 cars confirmed)
JDC-Miller Motorsports (Oreca LMP2) – The John Church-led team expands into a two-car operation next year, while retaining an identical lineup of Stephen Simpson, Mikhail Goikhberg and Chris Miller (enduros) in the No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson, affectionally nicknamed the “Banana Boat.” Drivers for its second entry have yet to be finalized although it recently tested a number of drivers, including Colin Thompson. (2 cars confirmed)
CORE autosport (Oreca LMP2) – The most successful team in Prototype Challenge history steps up, with Colin Braun and Jon Bennett at the wheel of an Oreca. Additional drivers for the endurance races, including the Rolex 24, have yet to be announced, but the Morgan Brady-led team is expected to stack the deck with two top pros alongside Braun and Bennett. (1 car confirmed)
D3+ Transformers Racing (Ligier LMP2) – Father-and-son Ian and Simon Dawson will campaign a Ligier JS P217 Gibson, carrying backing from the popular Hasbro franchise. Robbie Kerr is the only confirmed driver so far, although Dawson told Sportscar365 he expects to have an all-pro lineup. (1 car confirmed)
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (Ligier LMP2) – After a challenging debut season in Prototype, the Bobby Oergel-led squad is targeting a full-season return with its Ligier, although as of last month, pieces were still being put together. Look for the team to contest the Patron Endurance Cup races at a minimum, with at least one driver change, as Pla moves to ESM. (1 car likely)
BAR1 Motorsports (Riley LMP2) – The Brian Alder-led team makes the move to Prototype, having acquired Ben Keating’s Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, which will be upgraded to Evo specification and to benefit from Multimatic’s chassis development work. Drivers have yet to be announced, although is likely to feature a mix of its PC pilots, including Tomy Drissi. A second car is also possible for the Patron Endurance Cup races. (1 car confirmed, 2nd car possible)
Performance Tech Motorsports (Dallara LMP2) – The final PC champions will step up to the top class next year, with the Brent O’Neill-led team finalizing the purchase of a Dallara P217 Gibson. Look for a similar lineup from this year’s effort, led by James French, Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson. (1 car likely)
Additional Entries Possible for Season
While dependent on sponsorship and funded drivers, CRP Racing could move to IMSA, having signaled the possibility of purchasing a LMP2 car, while at least one other team is understood to be evaluating a potential full-season effort.
European Invasion Expected for Daytona
An influx of entries from Europe are expected for the Rolex 24, led by the two-car United Autosports Ligier effort and featuring Fernando Alonso, Paul Di Resta and Lando Norris. Jackie Chan DC Racing will also field two cars, with Rebellion Racing and Graff Racing two other Oreca squads that are likely to take part.
While having evaluated potential Daytona efforts, both Racing Team Nederland and G-Drive Racing will not make the trip to Florida, with Tockwith Motorsports’ previously confirmed effort no longer valid due to Phil Hanson’s move to United Autosports.
Full-Season Entry Projection: 16-18 cars
Additional Cars for Daytona: 6-8